Overall, I’m a pretty healthy eater. I stick to mostly fresh, whole foods, and try to be conscious of my intake of processed goods. But, I also believe in a good cheat day and a splurge to keep the cravings at bay. My favorite cheat meal is a crispy fried chicken sandwich and a beer.
I went out to dinner at my local sports bar on Saturday with a coworker. As we looked over the menu, she reminisced. Apparently, she had worked there as a bartender when she first moved to town, before she got her current job at our company. As soon as I saw they had a “signature” spicy chicken sandwich, I was sold. But she immediately said, “Nope, don’t do it. I would not get anything fried here.”
“Oh, I’m not counting calories today. It’s my cheat day, I don’t care.”
“No, not that. I just worked in this kitchen long enough to know that the fryer is disgusting,” she said. “They literally never change the oil! The cook once even bragged to me that it’s why the fries taste so good. I’m telling you, if you go back there and look in the fryer, the oil is so old that it’s turned black.”
I hesitated. “I mean, that can’t be legal though? The FDA or something must make them change it, right?” I asked.
“I don’t know. All I know is that in the 3 years I worked here, they didn’t change it once.” she shrugged.
I really wanted my fried chicken sandwich but now I was grossed out. When the bartender came by, we both ordered grilled chicken salads instead. It was fine, but my cheat day craving was definitely not satisfied!
I was annoyed. The oil in a fryer shouldn’t be allowed to get so gross that even an employee doesn’t want to eat out of it. I considered if I should report the restaurant to the public health people who give restaurants their ratings. But when I tried to look up the rules on oil, I couldn’t find anything at all. Apparently, there are actually no rules or regulations about how often restaurants are required to change their oil! At least not in America. I read online that other parts of the world do care.
The worst part is that I found out black oil isn’t just gross…it’s dangerous. European restaurants heavily regulate how often kitchens are required to change their oil. This is because there are connections to carcinogens in food cooked in degraded oil!
There are several studies that demonstrate that when you char foods, the process can lead to high levels of HCAs and PAHs (Cancer causing compounds). When restaurants don’t clean or filter their oil, and don’t change it often, it gets filled with microscopic pieces of food. They char (which is why it looks black!) and float in the oil. Those particles then get stuck to everything we eat that comes out of the fryer! Terrifying! This is why sometimes Acrylamide can be found in fried food.
There has to be some solution to this. Why isn’t the US monitoring this? I love fried food, and I’ll miss my chicken sandwiches, but unless a kitchen can tell me how often they change or filter their oil, I won’t feel safe eating there. So before you order…ask about frying practices!